Benefits Of: AGAI PALM

Arecaceae (Palm family)

Description: Slender palm, 20-30 m (66-100 ft) tall, with multiple slender stems and pinnate leaves, 2-3 m (6.6-10 ft) long. Numerous small brownish or purple flowers in pale yellow racemes up to 1 m (3.3 ft) long. Fruits are globose drupes, 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in) in diameter, with glossy dark red to dark purple skin. The very thin, purple pulp surrounds a large, single seed that makes up about 80% of the fruit.

Benefits Of: AGAI PALM Photo Gallery

Origin and Distribution. The a^ai palm forms dense stands in swampy floodplains and along riverbanks throughout the Amazon lowlands of northern South America. In Brazil, it is often cultivated for its fruits. The tree requires a humid tropical climate.

Food uses. The pulp of the fruit has been used to make a dark purple beverage with a unique flavor, served ice cold and sweetened. In Brazil the juice is often mixed with cassava (Manihot esculenta, p. 265) flour to produce a nutritious meal. The juice is also used to make wine and liqueurs. The palm heart is considered a delicacy and used in salads and meat dishes.

Recently the fruit has become a focal point of the health and wellness industry. The pulp is high in minerals as well as antioxidants and flavonoid-like compounds and is said to be beneficial for losing weight, curing diabetes, and treating sexual disorders. Indeed, the a^ai is often described as a new miracle fruit. Ongoing studies have yet to reveal the certainty of any real health benefits of the a^ai fruit. Comments. One hundred grams (0.22 lbs) of the powdered and freeze-dried pulp contain 533 kcal, 52.2 g (1.8 oz) carbohydrates, 8.1 g (0.29 oz) protein, and 32.5 g (1.15 oz) total fat. The hard, insect-resistant wood is used for general construction purposes, and the leaves are used to thatch houses and to make hats, baskets, and mats. If well managed, the production of a^ai fruits in small groves in the Amazonian lowland can be a good example of sustainable usage of tropical forests without damage to existing ecosystems like that caused by large sugarcane and soybean plantations. The palm heart of the closely related, single-stemmed E. edulis is of equally high quality.

Description. Palm with fan-shaped leaves, gray bark, and characteristic V-shaped branching of the trunk. Leaf blades 1.5-1.8 m (5-6 ft) in diameter with petioles 0.8-1 m (2.6-3.3 ft) long. The leaf sheaths are covered in recurved spines. Dioecious flowers in spikes on branched inflorescences 1-1.2 m (3.33.9 ft) long. Orange fruits round or pyriform, 8-10 cm (3-4 in) in diameter with smooth, hard skin, turning brown when fully ripe. Fruits contain a single yellowish-white seed.

Origin and Distribution. Native to the Sahel zone of sub-Saharan and central Africa, where the palm often grows in wadis, oases, and along streams. Widely cultivated since ancient times in dry, tropical regions of Africa. Occasionally also grown in India.

Food uses. The fibrous, sweet flesh of fully ripe fruits is eaten out of hand or made into sweets, cakes, and molasses. The dried flesh is ground into flour and used in baked goods and sweets. In Turkana, Kenya, a powder made from the outer covering of the fruit is added to water and milk and left to stand to make a mild alcoholic drink.

The kernels of unripe fruits are edible. The heart of palm of young shoots is of good quality and eaten as a vegetable. The shoots of germinated seeds are also eaten as a vegetable.

Comments. The tough fibers of the leaves are used to make a variety of products, including ropes, mats, baskets, and brooms. Entire leaves are used for thatching. In ancient Egypt, the fruit was considered sacred and has been found as offerings in tombs of Egyptian pharaohs.

The scientific species name refers to Thebes, an ancient Egyptian city on the banks of the Nile in the vicinity of Luxor.

Description. Erect, single-trunked palm, 30-35 m tall, with persistent leaf bases on the trunk. Pinnate leaves in terminal rosettes, each leaf 4-6 m (13-20 ft) long with silvery green pinnae 25-45 cm (10-18 in) long. Dioecious, fragrant, white to cream-colored flowers in inflorescences up to 75 cm (30 in) long. Oblong, reddish-brown to yellowish-brown fruits 3-8 cm (1.2-3 in) long, with soft, sweet flesh surrounding a single seed. Origin and Distribution. The date palm has been in cultivation since ancient times in the river valleys of the Nile, Euphrates, Tigris, and Indus. It is probably of Middle Eastern origin. Archaeological evidence associates date palms with human settlements from as early as 5000 BC. The date palm grows naturally in arid and semiarid habitats with seasonal rainfall and in river valleys. Food uses. Ripe, sweet dates are eaten out of hand, either fresh or dried. The fruits have been an important food for nomads, desert travelers, and caravans for millennia. Today they are a common ingredient in bakery goods, puddings, cereals, desserts, granola bars, and sweets. Seeded fruits are often stuffed with cream cheese, diced nuts, or candied fruits. Dates are an ingredient in a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes. In Saudi Arabia a special kind of cookie, called kaak, is made with dates. A type of wine has been made from fermented dates since ancient times. In some regions the flowers are cut to obtain the sap, which is then converted to palm sugar or molasses, which can be fermented and distilled to make the liquor called arak. In the Middle East, fruits are fermented to make vinegar.

Comments. More than 600 cultivars of the date palm, one of mankind’s oldest cultivated fruit trees, have been described. Dates contain about 80% carbohydrate and are a good source of potassium and magnesium.

The date palm was revered by many ancient civilizations of northern Africa and the Middle East. It is mentioned no less than 26 times in the Koran.

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